Submarine hunt sends Cold War chill across Baltic
STOCKHOLM (AP): Sweden's biggest submarine hunt since the dying days of the Soviet Union has put countries around the Baltic Sea on edge.
In a scene reminiscent of the Cold War, Swedish naval ships, helicopters and ground troops combed the Stockholm archipelago for a fourth day yesterday for signs of a foreign submarine or smaller underwater craft that officials suspect entered Swedish waters illegally.
While Sweden hasn't linked any country to the suspected intrusion - and Moscow denies involvement, blaming a Dutch submarine - the incident sent a chill through the Baltic Sea region, where Russian forces have been accused of a series of border violations on land, sea and air in recent months.
"Closely following events in the Swedish territorial waters may become a game changer of the security in the whole Baltic Sea region," Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics wrote on Twitter.
Swedish military officials say there have been three sightings of the elusive craft since Friday, just 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of Stockholm amid the myriad of islands and skerries that stretch from the capital into the Baltic Sea.
On Sunday, they released a photograph taken at a distance of what they said could be the mystery vessel - a dark speck surrounded by foaming water.
Military spokesman Jesper Tengroth said more than 200 personnel were involved in the operation, but stressed that unlike Sweden's submarine hunts in the 1980s, the military was not using depth charges or other anti-submarine weapons.
Speculating on whether the suspected underwater intruder was linked to a mother ship, Swedish media zeroed in on an oil tanker owned by Russian company Novoship, which had been circling near Swedish waters. In a statement yesterday, Novoship President Yuri Tsvetkov said he was "flattered" by the attention but said the ship was charted for transporting oil from Russia to the US and was drifting on standby awaiting loading orders.